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New book prescribes some tough medicine for Canada's health care sector

Last Updated Mar 14, 2019 at 9:51 am PDT


In his new book, Stephen Skyvington argues the health care status quo is not good enough

He says he was inspired to write the book after a health scare of his own

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Here is a controversial opinion: Canada doesn’t have the best health care system in the world. However, the author of a new book says it’s not too late to change that.

In This May Hurt a Bit, Reinventing Canada’s Health Care System, his first book, Stephen Skyvington argues the status quo is no longer good enough.

“If you want to guarantee that we’re going to end up with a U.S.-style, two-tier healthcare system, which by the way I’m very much against, keep doing what you’re doing,” he warns.

Skyvington doesn’t waste much time before he gets into the decades-old debate. For starters, he calls for a rewrite of the federal Health Act. “I think quality, and I say it should be added as a sixth principle [of the Canada Health Act], it really should be the first principle,” he says. “Quality should be driving what we’re doing here in our health care system. And it absolutely isn’t.”

Skyvington, long a pundit in these matters, was inspired to write the book after a health scare of his own, a V-tach attack or ventricular tachycardia. As he puts it in the book, he came to find “the person who consumes the meal is just as qualified to judge the meal as the person preparing it.”

This May Hurt A Bit is bound to raise more than a few eyebrows. For instance, Skyvington states there is no need to argue against a two-tier system. It has already arrived. “The rich already have a second tier, it’s called America,” he says. “If the rich want to jump the queue and get quick access and pay for it themselves, they just go to any of the places in America.”

Another eyebrow-raiser is the man he got to write the foreward, Dr. Brian Day of Vancouver’s Cambie Surgical Centre. Day has launched a constitutional challenge against B.C.’s restrictions on private care. “As Brian rightfully points out,” Skyvington recalls, “’Prisoners get better access to health care than the rest of us,’ and I don’t know if people are okay with that, but I’m certainly not.”

Skyvington also lays out a number of strategies to reform the medical sector, from opening the door to medical tourism to bringing back co-payments and user fees and introducing tax-free medical savings accounts.

Another of his ideas is to combine Canada’s 13 provincial and territorial health ministries into one super-ministry at the federal level. He says the lack of consistent regulation and delivery is one of the factors working against the system. Skyvington uses a sports analogy to drive this particular point home. “Imagine if in Montreal and Toronto, a hockey game consisted of three 20 minute periods, as it does now,” he says. “But in Winnipeg and Edmonton, you played two 30 minute periods. And then, Vancouver and Calgary played one 60 minute game with no break. That’s how our health care system works.”

The hockey analogy is just one example of Skyvington’s conversational writing style and he’s quick to take on the language of the everyman. “I’m not a policy wonk, I’m not a professor,” he points out. “Think of me as a canary in a coal mine or a war correspondent. And now I’m coming back to report to you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

“We don’t have a health care system, we have an insurance scheme and, as I say in the book, a badly-run one at that,” he concludes.

This May Hurt a Bit is published by Dundurn Press.